Before the start of Amnesty International's benefit Friday, many fans in Section 31 gazed blankly at the huge candle-in-barbed wire Amnesty symbol hanging from the Forum ceiling.
"I don't get it," wisecracked one man in his early 20s. "Do they help ranchers find cattle in the dark or something?"
Although the rest of the capacity crowd seemed to share that ignorance of the human rights organization's goals at the beginning of the show, many of the 18,600 rock fans warmed up to the message as the concert proceeded.
In a concession line early in the evening, teen-agers Michele Matheson and Kathy Jonas were both wrapped in new Amnesty T-shirts--even though they had no idea of what the group stood for.
"I know they help people escape from prison," Jonas offered. "I wonder if they use helicopters."
"They don't have money for that," Matheson countered. "Maybe that's why the tickets are 36 bucks." Both giggled.
Inside the arena, Jackson Browne reminded the audience that Amnesty International is "nonpartisan . . . that's one of the best things about it; it seeks to help anybody imprisoned for dreaming of freedom."
"Like those guys down in Latin America, I guess," remarked someone in Section 31. "They need all the help they can get."
Later, in the lobby, several concertgoers took out the postcard packets that had been handed out at the door and scrutinized them. The cards are part of an Amnesty campaign to pressure selected governments into releasing political prisoners of conscience.
Meanwhile, a cluster of Amnesty commercials shown on a huge overhead screen drew rapt attention from the spectators--although the biggest (and most shrill) cheers were reserved for Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, making his message almost inaudible.
"This is intense," said one fan in Section 31, as he watched scenes of violence on the screens. "These guys (Amnesty International) must not mess around if they're tackling these dictators."
In the parking lot afterward, people were talking about what they had seen--and learned.
"You still got your postcards?," a woman in her early 20s said to her companion. "Use 'em."
But not everyone was politically motivated. Remarked one young male fan, who was wearing a rock tour T-shirt, "What was the name of that redheaded chick sitting next to you? She was outrageous ."